Susan Cain — How to Overcome Fear and Embrace Creativity (#357)

Photo by Pasi Salminen

“So often, when you see someone who’s really good at almost anything, it’s because they actually started out exactly the opposite — and then they cared so much about fixing that problem.” — Susan Cain

Susan Cain (@susancain) is the author of the bestsellers Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverts and Quiet: The Power of Introverts in A World That Can’t Stop Talking, the latter of which has been translated into more than 40 languages. Quiet is in its seventh year on The New York Times Best Sellers list, and it was named the number one best book of the year by Fast Company magazine, which also named Susan one of its Most Creative People in Business.

She is the Chief Revolutionary of Quiet Revolution, and her writing has appeared in the The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Wall Street Journal, and many other publications. Her record-smashing TED talk has been viewed more than 20 million times and was named by Bill Gates as one of his all-time favorite talks.

Please enjoy!

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, or on your favorite podcast platform. 

#357: Susan Cain — How to Overcome Fear and Embrace Creativity


Want to hear more about loving-kindness and mindfulness meditation? — Listen to this episode with world-renowned meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg! (Stream below or right-click here to download):

#277: Sharon Salzberg, World-Renowned Meditation Teacher


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QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…


  • Connect with Susan Cain:

Quiet Revolution | Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn


  • What initiated Susan’s lifelong fear of public speaking? [06:51]
  • How did the opportunity for Susan to give her now-legendary TED Talk come about, and how was it received at first? [10:12]
  • How do introverts handle group dinners? We all have our strategies. [11:23]
  • Susan asks if the sixth grade me who shied away from recess to read books about fish could foresee the public life I’d lead. For that matter: what happened to me in sixth grade? [13:54]
  • How did Susan begin to overcome her fear of public speaking? [15:38]
  • Even seasoned public speaking veterans don’t go into a TED Talk without a kaleidoscope of nervous butterflies fluttering in their stomachs. [18:34]
  • If professional speakers have a hard time giving a TED Talk, how did Susan ease her way up to being able to give hers — and now travel the world as a public speaker? [20:21]
  • What a lot of great teachers and coaches have in common that gets results. [21:39]
  • What pre-game rituals help Susan prepare for speaking engagements these days? [23:55]
  • Learning how to speak in public magnifies your ability to do almost everything else — just ask Warren Buffett. [25:49]
  • How Toastmasters and a trio of chihuahuas helped me overcome my own reservations about public speaking in preparation for my first presentation at South by Southwest. [26:36]
  • How I prepared for my own TED Talk. [29:43]
  • Crucial pre-TED help Susan got from Adam Grant — who began as a self-described “terrible public speaker” to become the most popular professor at Wharton. [31:25]
  • The importance of rehearsing in front of a live audience before — preferably well before — a big speaking engagement. [33:08]
  • How nervous do I get before speaking in public these days? Are my nerves more manageable now compared to when I began? [34:02]
  • One extra level of pressure you’ll face if you’re preparing for a TED Talk: don’t go over your allotted time…or else. [37:09]
  • As mentioned before, public speaking is a force multiplier for your other skills, and it allows people to see you as an authority. For better or worse, it’s also therapy. [38:29]
  • As someone who considers herself a worrier, what hacks does Susan have for relieving the pressure of her worries? [41:22]
  • Why did Susan decide to leave her career as a Wall Street lawyer to become a writer? [42:59]
  • Necessity isn’t always the mother of invention when it comes to making a living in a creative field. [46:06]
  • From start to finish, how long did it take for Susan to write her first book, and why was her editor’s advice to start from scratch after reading her “terrible” first submission such a relief? [48:57]
  • Now that she’s got two books under her belt, what does Susan’s writing process look like today? [51:20]
  • How does Susan take and organize her notes? [52:13]
  • When it comes to using Scrivener over Microsoft Word, Susan would prefer not to. But here’s why I like it and have used it for writing most of my books. [56:03]
  • After a year or so of taking notes, the real writing begins. While stopping short of calling this part of the process her happy place, Susan enjoys it on several levels. [57:38]
  • As a busy mother, what time of day does Susan tend to write? Without family obligations, when would she prefer to write? [59:03]
  • What does Susan’s schedule look like once she sits down to write? Does she take breaks? If so, how often? [1:00:03]
  • Writing late at night versus early in the morning, and the things many writers will do to (ourselves included) to put off writing. [1:02:09]
  • Books and resources that have had an impact on our writing. [1:04:24]
  • Serendipitous meetings that made each of our first books possible. [1:08:38]
  • Introversion versus shyness. [1:13:59]
  • Books Susan has gifted most. [1:18:16]
  • An aside about the first time I met Sam Harris. [1:19:29]
  • Susan and I share our experiences with loving-kindness (or metta) meditation and lament its avoidance by many who misunderstand the label. [1:22:10]
  • What loving-kindness meditation does for me that mindfulness meditation does not, and something I was doing wrong for years that was eventually corrected. [1:26:00]
  • What would Susan’s billboard say? [1:31:04]
  • What advice would Susan have for people seeking the ability to deeply connect with others? [1:32:30]
  • Susan’s lifelong love of bittersweet and minor key music and a peek into what her next book will be about. [1:33:13]
  • Intentions for my next projected book and parting thoughts. [1:35:38]